CHANGING THY NEIGHBOUR (the pursuit of the impossible)
I have never liked my neighbour, who also happens to be my landlord. We have never hit it off. I think the only thing we have in common is the money I pay him in terms of house rent at the end of every month. I don't like my neighbour, who also happens to be my landlord becuase I have been thinking that I have a mission of changing him.
My landlord, has this habit of coping every sound I make in my house. The thin concrete wall dividing our houses is too thin you can hear what happens on the other end. When I cough, my neighbour coughs. When I sneeze, he sneezes. When I sing, he sings. When I clear my voice, he clears his voice.
Let me clear my voice to see if he will copy me. Ahhhhhhhemmmmm! Just wait for it, it will happen. I told you it would HAPPEN! My neighbour has also cleared his voice. This used to make me so mad I wanted to change my neighbour. If only I had my own way I would just wring his neck off, take his head somewhere so it could be reprogrammed afresh. This used to make him hate him so much. One day I learnt my landlord was not guilty, he wasn't coping me at all. The sound I heard a second after I had made the same sound inside my own house was as a result of an ECHO. Just imagine that! Yet there I was thinking he was being weird. Since my neighbour doesn't have a lot of furniture his house is emtpy. This means there is a lot of space (I just don't know how best to explain this scientifically, okay?)
The other thing I hated about my neighbour was this habit of opening the door, just a crack to show me he was watching every move I made, everytime I opened my door. This he was doing becuase everytime I went to the loo to pee, I always peed outside the bowl. To make sure I didn't pee outside the bowl, my landlord would stop outside the toilet's door to hear whether I ws doing what I was supposed to do once inside the toilet. I can still remember the regulations he gave me as a condition of staying in his house as a tenant. They are four, actually.
(a). Don't pee outside the toilet bowl
(b). Pay rent on the 27th of every month.
(c). No visitors, especially those likely to talk in a loud voice
(d). No playing music in a loud volume
I woke up everyday, for three years straight, wanting to change my neighbour, who also happens to be my landlord. But there was no single day I succeeded. Instead things got even worse. He kept opening his door everytime I opened my door, I kept peeing outside the toilet bowl (which made him mad) and the echoes worsened. My efforts of wanting to change him hit the wall. As I was pursuing this (call it the pursuit of the impossible) something profound happened to me. I got arrested.
* * *
I have been arrested and I advice to do the same. Get arrested, it will open your eyes. I want to tell you why I was arrested. But that isn't important. I think telling you what I learnt will suffice instead. I think I was arrested so I could learn how to stop pursuing the impossible. I learnt that to change someone, or the world, one has to start with themselves first. This is how it happened.
* * *
There is something that gets to a person's head (especially if it is their first time being behind bars). There is an eerie silence (after guys have bragged about their crimes, the same ones they swear they never committed) that gets to a person's head. Picture yourself as not listening to the sound of your car, radio, TV, children, cars on the streets, or your snoring spouse. Just get arrested and you will know what I mean. The silence makes you wish you could turn the hands of time, which we all know is wishful thinking. It makes you want to do something with your hands, fingers, feet, time and anything else you can use. The silence is what makes and breaks people behind bars.
To keep us busy we would engage in a number of activities. Some of us swatted the mosquitoes off the walls. Some collected the dead mosquitoes which they heaped in front of a guy who had an eye missing. The guy asked the other guys to bring him all the mosquitoes they had killed so he could get a healthy laugh out of it. Some of us crushed lies between their thumbs. My fingernails have never been that bloody ever since. I think I can still smell the blood on my fingers.
Sniff, sniff, sniff, sniff
yes, it is still there
and I don't care!
Eight days later I learnt how to make good use of the silence. It gave me the chance of remembering all the songs I knew. I know so many songs. But somehow, I just wanted to sing Michael Jackson's MAN IN THE MIRROR. Here are the words to the wonderful song...
I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change)
(Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na, Na Nah)
I discovered that to change my neighbour, who also happens to be my landlord, I had to change myself. The moment I realized this I got freed from the pursuit of the impossible. The next day my landlord came to bail me out. And ever since the echo from my landlord's house brings me joy. It is music to my ears. I am already composing a song about it. I have written the first words. Help me write the rest....
To change others, change thyself first....
'I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.'